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Does the holiday season make you a bit nervous?  Do your palms start to sweat a little when Christmas decorations going up before the kids have even gone trick or treating for Halloween?  The time for gift-giving and spending ample time with family and friends looms ever closer.  It’s inevitable that you’ll be opening your wallet and swiping your credit cards more than they are accustomed to during any other months of the year. 

This article is a proposal to make holiday shopping easier and less damaging to bank accounts, what do you think?  Even if you know that Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday sales will offer the best deals, how do you sift through hundreds and hundreds of sales?  We know it is daunting, but the time to prepare is now:

Step 1 – Create a Wish List

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Think of all the friends and family members you want to give gifts.  Don’t forget to include yourself!  Either write them on paper, or adapt your list to a spreadsheet template online. Write your gift recipients’ names down one column, and add another column for the amount you’re budgeting for them, whether a specific dollar amount, or a percentage of your overall Christmas shopping budget. For example, if you set aside 10% of your spending budget for a gift for your significant other, a simple spreadsheet formula can determine how much that is of your total budget.

In another column, write the kinds of gifts you’ll get for each person.  Instead of writing specific items, write general categories such as, “Likes Star Wars toys and gadgets,” “Needs new stuff for their kitchen,” or “Wears large-sized shirts.”  That way, when Black Friday deals and sales are announced, you can pick products and services from the offered items and plug them into your list for each gift recipient.  Be sure to choose multiple gift options in case a deal sells out, or lines are too long to deal with.

Step 2: Pick Specific Store Locations and Webstores

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Photo Courtesy: Family Video

Looking at your list, sign up for emails from the retailers you will most likely shop from this year.  Follow their social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, etc., as most of them will announce their deals in the days leading up to Black Friday, and all through the holiday shopping season.

Some product pages, like FamilyVideo.com, have an “Add to Wish List” feature, where they will email and alert you whenever a price drop occurs.  Do some “window” shopping and create wish lists for products you know you have your eye on. Install a price tracker extension or app for your internet browser.  That way, you can compare prices and see the pricing history for virtually any product you’re looking at.  Did the retailer raise the prices before Thanksgiving, just so they can announce a 90% price reduction on Black Friday?  Or come Cyber Monday, are you looking at a genuine, bona-fide deal?  A price tracker extension can help you there.

Step 3: Prepare and Plan Your Shopping Days

Are you going to go to stores on Black Friday?  Before the big day, make sure you’re stocked on snacks and drinks to bring (it’s going to be a long day). It’s best to stock up for this as you’re doing your Thanksgiving food shopping.  Also, dress appropriately and in layers as you may be standing out in the cold for long periods of time, or standing in line inside where it’s considerably warm.

Check store hours, locations, and plan out your route.  Look at a map and figure out a journey to hit up all locations without having to back-track.  You may even want to consider how long you want to spend at each store, and how long it takes to travel between each (including some time for finding parking and/or walking to each store).

 

Are you going to shop online?  Many online sales won’t be offering deals just on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  Many online retailers, like Amazon.com and Target.com, will start offering great deals a week before Black Friday.

Mark your calendar for the days you’re going to stores, and mark the days that online retailers have already announced when their sales will start.  That way, you’ll know when to prepare for a trek out, and when to stay at home to shop online.

Step 4: Go, Go, Go!

When the day comes, don’t get lured in by every single doorbuster deal offered at the store.  It’s easy to make an impulse buy for something not on your list.  Anyone remember the cheap $20 printer deals?  People bought printers even if they already owned one (“Who cares, it’s brand new!”).  

You may encounter situations where you should cut your losses.  If the lines are way too long from the time you get there, or if the situation is getting a bit hairy, move on to the next store.  This is especially important to remember if you know that there are tons of online deals as well.

Stick to your plan, stick to your budget, or risk making your wallet cry.

Hopefully, we’ve given you some direction and confidence for your shopping this holiday season.  It’s not too daunting to be budget-conscious and refrain from blowing all of your money.  It may require a little prep work on your side, but after the holidays come, you won’t be hit with huge bills in a month and be happier that you saved a bunch of money.

Did we miss a Black Friday or Cyber Monday tip?  Help us make the most of holiday shopping!